Introduction Recently extracellular vesicles (exosomes, microparticles also referred to as microvesicles and apoptotic bodies) have attracted substantial interest as potential biomarkers and therapeutic vehicles. However, analysis of microparticles in biological fluids is confounded by many factors such as the activation of cells in the blood collection tube that leads to in vitro vesiculation. In this study we aimed at identifying an anticoagulant that prevents in vitro vesiculation in blood plasma samples. Materials and Methods We compared the levels of platelet microparticles and non-platelet-derived microparticles in platelet-free plasma samples of healthy donors. Platelet-free plasma samples were isolated using different anticoagulant tubes, and were analyzed by flow cytometry and Zymuphen assay. The extent of in vitro vesiculation was compared in citrate and acid-citrate-dextrose (ACD) tubes. Results Agitation and storage of blood samples at 37 C for 1 hour induced a strong release of both platelet microparticles and non-platelet-derived microparticles. Strikingly, in vitro vesiculation related to blood sample handling and storage was prevented in samples in ACD tubes. Importantly, microparticle levels elevated in vivo remained detectable in ACD tubes. Conclusions We propose the general use of the ACD tube instead of other conventional anticoagulant tubes for the assessment of plasma microparticles since it gives a more realistic picture of the in vivo levels of circulating microparticles and does not interfere with downstream protein or RNA analyses.
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